Sharing my thoughts and putting my message accross
(This article was first published in http://www.Nigeriaworld.com and http://www.Nigeriannews.com on December 12, 2006 and is being republished today, on account of the June 12th anniversary)
The sun neither rises in the north nor does it ever set in the south. The solar system has it own set of rules. No one plants an apple tree and reaps cherry fruits in harvest time. Nature’s own dynamics runs in ordered consistence. Therefore, what the night holds is usually what the day sets to achieve.
Thoughts indeed, that would have reshaped the entire biography of the man Moshood Abiola had they been made to serve as the paramount credo of his political dealings.
Before embarking on this dangerous analogy though, I will like to point out that repeated references these days, to the annulment of the June 12th 1993 elections that would have seen the installation of Moshood Abiola as President of Nigeria, in the condemnation of Babangida underscores the relevance of this issue at this point in time.
The project of analyzing the man Abiola is one that is fraught with challenges and the risk of encroaching on, albeit usurping the emotional territories of many political observers alike. Given a place in political analysis, it is an open secret that emotions always have their own dynamics of setting facts and logical reasoning aside. It is therefore, regrettable if extraneous emotions are perceived as violated in the process of this discourse.
Without pretending to be a sage in the observation of the Nigerian political scene however, it may be pertinent to highlight the extremely personal and therefore, limited nature of my observations.
The M. K. O. Abiola that I know shot to the limelight of political activities round about 1979 in the wake of political activities to determine a successor for the Murtala/Obasanjo junta. Indeed, I was only a teenager at the time and my mind was yet unpolluted in terms of ideological leanings. The intellect was set on the path of growth and future direction was to be shaped by whatever the prevailing system that fed my brain in ethical, moral and intellectual conduct. In other words, such names as Akintola, Awolowo, Azikiwe, Sarduana of Sokoto, Herbert Marcaulay etc. who played active roles in pre-independence and perhaps also in the early post-independence years, were nothing more than just names to me. I heard a lot about their importance but never knew what they represented in their individual capacities.
So, when suddenly, names like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe emerged in the flurry of political activities that greeted the lifting of the ban on political parties by Obasanjo, I had a first-hand opportunity of getting to know a few prominent characters all on my own.
I soon found out that the man Obafemi Awolowo did a sound homework preparing for the ultimate lifting of the said ban on political activities. The organization of his party the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the ideological framework which was largely left-leaning, the lieutenants with which he surrounded himself etc. were a resounding evidence of cohesion and a streamlined coordination of a group’s identity. His four cardinal program “Free Education at all levels”, “Free medical Services”, “Integrated Rural Development” and “Gainful Employment” bore the hallmarks of the equitable distribution of wealth and the re-organization of infrastructures. Nigeria was not known to be wanting at the time in terms of finances. The discovery of oil and the crisis it meant to European and American states translated into high proceeds for Nigeria’s finances. Nigeria had money.
Quite interestingly, lessons in Economics were beginning to take hold of my perception. I was reading that conservative (right-leaning) ideologies were regarded as more suitable to the healing of ailing economies because the right-wing does not care much for public welfare and is as such, less involved in public spending. On the contrary, left-wingers were deemed more suited for the handling of a robust economy because they traditionally hold the program for social welfare and the distribution of wealth. In short, conservatives generate capital and the socialists disburse capital. That was the simplified version that permeated my mind at the time.
So, not caring much for the ethnic divide that seemed to have characterized the existing political parties, I sought to understand what the parties had to offer in terms of program.
In addition to the Unity Party of Nigeria, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was most prominent. Its tendency was elitist and right wing. Its most popular slogan was “Qualitative Education” not “Free” and the “Green Revolution”. In fact, the Green Revolution had a long-term objective of making Nigeria self-sufficient in agriculture. In sharp contrast to the UPN though, the NPN – in my views – is comparable to the PDP of today in its formation. It had no single person that could be seen as its long-term architect. It showed no traces of a party that had long been planned in expectation of the lifting of the ban. It was systematically organized with lots of eminent personalities.
The Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), which was most tribal-oriented like the UPN, served the Ibo base. In fact if anything, the NPP far surpassed the NPN in its resemblance of today’s PDP in terms of formation. The flag-bearer of the NPP Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was desperately begged to take back his words on withdrawing from politics to lead the party. This is even more similar to the positioning of Obasanjo (who though, was not begged) at the peak of the PDP.
What all the other parties had in common in contrast to the UPN was that they lacked programmatic ideological cohesion. They were sustained by tribal affiliations. The UPN had both. The UPN then, was predominantly Yoruba-based. Its ideology centered on Awolowo’s preliminary homework. Everyone in positions of importance identified with the ideology.
Then came the lust for power. The right-wing tendency of the NPN was even underscored by the number of (vocal and silent) millionaires it had in its ranks. Most prominent and vocal was Moshood Abiola. As a Yoruba, one would have naturally expected him to tow the Awolowo line in his choice of party. Not only did their ideological leaning obviously differ, there however, seemed to have been no place for Abiola in the UPN to advance his political ambitions.
Given the array of candidates presented to the nation (Shehu Shagari for the NPN, Obafemi Awolowo for the UPN, Nnamdi Azikiwe for the NPP, Aminu Kano for the PRP – People’s Redemption Party, largely Kano-based and one other flag-bearer for the GNPP – Great Nigeria People’s Party, also north-based) many observers agreed and rated Shehu Shagari as an intellectual lightweight in the political arena. Aminu Kano of the PRP and the flag-bearer for the GNPP indeed, stood no realistic chance of winning the game. The real battle was between the UPN and the NPN.
Given heightened tension between the Ibos and the Yorubas, it came as no surprise that neither Azikiwe nor Awolowo would pave way for each other. They both ended up as spoilers to their own interests and left the country at the mercy of the strong northern base and military sympathy of the NPN.
The only formula that didn’t fit much into this equation however, was Moshood Abiola. A Yoruba who personally knew the gravity of tribal influences in Nigerian politics, Abiola decided to team up with the north-dominated NPN shrugging aside the obvious traits of intellectual deficiency, viable party program and the long-term development of the fatherland. Apparently the quality of being a Muslim and the dream of getting nominated as NPN’s presidential candidate for the four-year term following the first, made Abiola believe he was better off finding a home in the NPN.
The truth in my perception is that Awolowo had a party and a program. Shagari was elected to represent a party. He had no program of his own except the party program. Azikiwe even had no party. He was virtually begged to join a party and lead it. On the other hand, program and party was a matter of personal conviction and heart-felt commitment for Obafemi Awolowo. Observers agreed that he was poised to unleash an agenda, which implementation would have been easy for him to oversee as every follower (e.g. Tai Solarin) was also an ardent believer in his objectives. I held the view in my teenage years that Awolowo stood out for a vivid project named uplifting Nigeria.
Many disagree with this assessment partly for sentimental dislike of Awolowo, tribal call of duty and far less on the basis of factual and intellectual observations.
In fact, months after Shagari’s lieutenants looted Nigeria’s treasury and drained the foreign reserves, Awolowo was first to cry foul calling on Shagari to tell the nation the true story of the plague that was hitting the Nigeria’s economy. Shagari initially denied anything wrong with the economy until we all stood on the verge of seeing the report to be released by a world financial institution (IMF or the World Bank) on the true state of Nigeria’s economy. Shagari finally came out and grudgingly too, to admit what Awolowo had been echoing over several months.
In the case of Abiola, personal ambition and probably personal animosities meant a diversion from facts and objective analysis. The NPN’s internal regulation provided for the zoning system. Each political zone was to be entitled to only a four-year term as presidential candidate. In the analysis, Shagari was to serve only one four-year term. Thereafter, Abiola would have stood a brilliant chance of succeeding him for the next four-year term.
Full of high hopes, Abiola founded the Concord Group of Newspapers to counter Awolowo’s well prepared leap into the political playground with his Tribune newspaper. Indeed, Abiola seemed to have been so badly carried away in his dining with the devil that he chose to unleash a ferocious attack on Awolowo that went far below the belt. The credo being the destruction of the myth Awolowo. The dirty face of politics was indeed represented by the battle of the Concord and Tribune newspapers. Abiola spent a huge amount of money on NPN in the hope that he may end up as a presidential candidate of the following term. Money, which would have done him much service, spent on philanthropy.
However, the day of reckoning came and Shagari amended the rules to allow him a second term. Abiola was left in the dark and in emptiness.
Rumors also did their rounds on how Abiola earned his millions. Though unproven till date, he was said to have played a fast one on ITT to defraud them of a huge sum of capital. These rumors did spread like wildfire. Abiola was not held in high esteem during the second Republic. His fallout with Fela Kuti culminating in “Give me shit I give you shit” should be fresh in everybody’s memory that experienced those days of political bickering.
In the rapid deterioration into decadence that followed the Babangida days, Nigeria had lost almost all political heavyweights of intellectual substance. Azikiwe was no longer there and Awolowo too. Idiagbon had been driven into oblivion and the light at the end of the tunnel could only fall on Abiola. Here, time seemed to have healed the wound he inflicted on the stature of Nigeria by helping install the NPN and Shagari.
The truth is that anyone that represented anything different from the accustomed northern oligarchy and the absolute decadent filth that is reminiscent of Babangida and all that followed his reign was sufficient for Nigerians. Last minute attempts to remedy his own image by embarking on philanthropic activities seemed to have lured people away from deeply scrutinizing Abiola’s credentials. Or probably the absence of a more credible alternative did the trick for him. Else, in an equitable field of balanced competition there is hardly any place in my reckoning, for an Abiola’s victory in any Nigerian election without the decadence perpetrated by Babangida and his cohorts.
While the Yorubas were ready to forgive Obasanjo for turning his back on Awolowo in the legal battle that ensued in the aftermath of the 1980 elections, Abiola’s case was one of an independent dynamic. Obasanjo was known in his days as the stooge of the northern oligarchy. Sharper tongues even contend that the real rulers of the Obasanjo days were the Yar’a Duas and the Danjumas!
Even though no one would have been able to stop the north-driven military government of Obasanjo from handing over power to the north in the person of Shagari, the view was largely held that Abiola should not have been involved in enhancing this process.
Intellectually, Abiola was an average Nigerian who happened to have been rich and in a position of influence. His calling was based on the philosophy of “anything goes”! What matters most was his personal aspiration. He sought to have a sun that would rise in the north and set in the south. Little did he know that the northern mafia is a collection of skillful dribblers for whom his stature did not stand a chance in spite of his millions. Indeed, the annulment of the June 12th elections by “Maradona” was Abiola reaping in the evening what he had sown in the morning. Babangida, on his own will also pay for his evils, which include that annulment in disregard for the people’s choice. But in hindsight, it is difficult to avoid observing how the dynamics of nature can play out on individuals in reminiscence of the karmic justice. I do not shed my tears for Abiola’s misfortune on the electoral field!
May his soul rest in peace!